Nadeau takes debut win in Atlanta

The 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup ended with a bang at Atlanta, as Jerry Nadeau picked up his first career win in 104 starts, becoming the 14th different race winner of the season in a 500-miler capped by a seven-lap shoot-out for the win

Nadeau takes debut win in Atlanta

Dale Earnhardt, Ward Burton, Jeff Gordon and 2000 Champion Bobby Labonte rounded out the top five. Nadeau has shown flashes of talent throughout the season and peaked at the perfect moment.

"I can't believe it," he said after doing a burnout in the shape of a figure-of-eight on the front stretch and sticking his car in the mud of the infield. "I'm excited! We had a tough year, but what a way to end the season." For a full Jerry Nadeau Q&A, click HERE.

After Labonte was crowned champion a week ago, the battle for 'Best of the Rest' was worth waiting for as lead changes and hard-charging marked every lap. While no one likes being second, third hurts even more when there's a difference of more than $300,000 between the two positions as part of the final points payoff.

Just 19 points separated Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt when the green flag waved. Earnhardt, starting eighth, took the lead on lap 80. Burton started 37th, worked his way to the top ten, and then fell two laps down with handling and overheating problems. Earnhardt's finish and Burton salvaging 12th was just enough to put the seven-time champion in the runner-up spot.

Labonte had a chance to drive for the fun of it - and race he did, a fixture of the top five in all 325 laps of the event after starting ninth.

Heavy rains, even ice, forced postponement of the race and final practice as well. Uncertainty of how the tyres would perform on the 'green' track prompted NASCAR officials to schedule a mandatory caution on lap 37 for assessment.

Michael Waltrip and Tony Stewart apparently learned little from the tread-wear as both drivers visited the wall hard on laps 67 and 11, respectively. Neither had warning of apparent tyre failure, and Waltrip had to scurry fast from his crippled car that caught fire as it drifted to the track apron. Early leader Jeremy Mayfield's Ford was apparently a little too good, as the engine let go in a plume of smoke on lap 54.

Ward Burton headed the pack with 15 laps to go. Hendrick Motorsports newcomer Nadeau, Mike Skinner and Rusty Wallace were turning laps of 185mph in hot pursuit when Scott Pruett reshuffled the deck by bringing out the caution flag. The leaders pitted and the nine lead-lap cars roared to life for a seven-lap shootout.

Burton was shunted aside in a wild restart, as Nadeau took the lead pursued by Earnhardt, who began the lap in eighth. Gordon, Labonte and Skinner joined the fray for third as Earnhardt saw he couldn't capture the newcomer, but did snatch second in the points.

More than a 100,000 fans skipped work to watch the weekday spectacle. A good excuse was witnessing history, as three-time champ Darrell Waltrip ended his storied, 29-year Winston Cup career. The 53-year old driver is third on the all-time wins list with 84 and was honoured by fellow champions on Sunday. He took a lap before the green to the delight of cheering admirers, and finished his final race in 34th.

1 25 Jerry Nadeau Michael Holigan Chevy
2 3 Dale Earnhardt GM Goodwrench Chevy
3 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Pont.
4 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevy
5 18 Bobby Labonte Interstate Pont.
6 31 Mike Skinner Lowe's Chevy
7 2 Rusty Wallace Miller Lite Ford
8 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Chevy
9 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Tools Ford
10 10 Johnny Benson Aaron's Pont.
11 94 Bill Elliott McDonald's Ford
12 99 Jeff Burton Citgo Ford
13 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Ford
14 46 Todd Bodine Kmart Ford
15 88 Dale Jarrett Quality Care Ford
16 4 Bobby Hamilton Kodak Film Chevy
17 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's Chevy
18 93 Dave Blaney Amoco Pont.
19 43 John Andretti STP/Cheerios Pont.
20 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr Budweiser Chevy
21 1 Steve Park Pennzoil Chevy
22 23 Scott Wimmer Decal Source Pont.
23 55 Kenny Wallace Square D Chevy
24 28 Ricky Rudd Texaco/Havoline Ford
25 33 Joe Nemechek Oakwood Homes Chevy
26 36 Ken Schrader M - M's Pont.
27 13 Robby Gordon Menards Ford
28 11 Brett Bodine Ralph's Ford
29 75 Wally Dallenbach Cartoon Network Ford
30 50 Ricky Craven Midwest Trans. Chevy
31 01 Bobby Hamilton Jr BellSouth Chevy
32 32 Scott Pruett Tide Ford
33 26 Jimmy Spencer Big Kmart Ford
34 66 Darrell Waltrip Big Kmart Ford
35 14 Rick Mast Conseco Pont.
36 97 Kurt Busch John Deere Ford
37 00 Buckshot Jones Crown Fiber Pont.
38 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Pont.
39 7 Michael Waltrip NationsRent Chevy
40 6 Mark Martin Valvoline Ford
41 12 Jeremy Mayfield Mobil 1 Ford
42 21 Elliott Sadler Citgo Ford
43 35 Geoffrey Bodine Bari Foods Chevy

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